Bringing Petra to Life

I thought you might enjoy following a piece from beginning to end.  This week I finally found inspiration for this little  head.  She had such a gentle personality from the moment I sculpted her and this week I was focused on bringing her to life.  All the little heads I make are stored on my studio windowsill until I have inspiration to create a final piece.  This week the pieces of Petra’s puzzle came together.  The first missing piece was some moss I found while out shopping a few weeks ago.   I like to add a few found pieces to each environment because I think it helps set the scene and make the character appear real.  The moss itself brought a woodland picture into my mind, combined with the gentle expression in Petra’s eyes and immediately I saw a witch or healer gathering elements for her potions and tonics.

Now that I had the idea I pulled out some elements that I planned to include in the piece.  I also decided that this was going to be a witch or healer and not and elf.  Elves are my primary characters here at Griffinwyse but they are not the only thing I create.  The Griffinwyse world is full of characters but, in this particular case, Petra needed human ears.  Here is how her look found it’s theme and palette.

  Now the sculpting can begin!  I make a wire armature, fill in a basic shape with foil, cover with clay and bake it to form a solid base.  At this point the sculpture looks like an emaciated version of the final and baking at this stage allows me to add clothing and details while ensuring a solid final piece.  I add the head to this form.  Here is how Petra looked at this stage.

Then I fill in her basic form.

This is the fun part.  Now I can pull in a little of my fashion design background and imagination and start to create.  The best part about working with clay and NOT fabric is there are really no limitations and alterations can easily be made without the seam ripper.  I love cloaks and this environment and “outing” I had planned were a perfect match.  I knew she would also need some kind of bag for her treasures as well.  I add arms and hands in this stage as the final gestures take form.  The details make such a difference- adding seams to the clothes, joints and creases in the hands, waves and style to the hair, and all the folds in fabric.

Here she is before her final trip to the oven.

Now that I have all the elements, I need to pull paint.  In Petra’s case I wanted to compliment the moss and I planned to use and gently frame her face without overpowering her.  The natural and rust colored feathers really appealed to me and were in sync with the soft tones and effects I was trying to pull together.

One of the things I enjoy about my work is the variety.  There is variety not only in the subjects but also in the steps involved in making them.  On any given day I can sculpt, paint, plan or do a variety of office-related activities.  If I am not in the mood for one, there is always something else that appeals to me.  Petra actually took a couple of days to complete.  Painting requires patience.  There are so many details in each piece and my fine-tip brush is my best friend.  I use several washes on each piece because the layers add to the depth and have a great aging effect.  Again, the face is the focus and I use several washes here to help add some highlights and shadows to the face.  I use several work lights so I am able to see in all the recesses of the piece and here is Petra all painted and ready for her final touches to be attached!

Now I paint her base, attach her to it and add final details.  Feathers are positioned, her runes are tied to her bag, acorns are secured in her bag and hand, and the moss is spread at her feet.  She is now ready for her photo shoot.  Another benefit of my job- playing photographer!  This was a learning curve for me initially- spent a good many hours in tutorials, test shoots and photo editing.  Now that I have a method down for what works best with my little subjects I can enjoy the process.  I know the time of day to shoot and how to play with the light so you can see as much of her expression and details as possible.  Here is the final sculpture!

Now Petra is ready for her new home but I am happy she is keeping me company today!

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